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Spatial Planning in China Thesis

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Updated: Aug 6th, 2019


Planning of the cities is one of the roles that have been considered as very challenging with the current developments of urban centers across the world.

As the cities grow, it is important to note that they are always overstretched if their capacity to handle the increased population is not enhanced. Sustainability of the cities is a factor that should be given priority when planning for these cities.

There is need to understand how the industrial area, residential area, the trading centers, recreational centers, schools, and other facilities should be located within a given city (Grijzen 2010, p. 82). The role of architectures is therefore, pivotal in spatial planning.

They will help in designing the city in a way that will not only allow for the expansion, but also ensure that the city is self-sustaining. Spatial planning involves land use and how it should be managed to yield maximum output, yet remain sustainable for the future generation.

Land has been defined as an asset that is scarce and very delicate, and therefore should always be used with a lot of care to ensure that it is protected.

Spatial planning helps to understand how a government can plan for its cities in a way that would ensure that they are sustainable (Ren 2013, p. 23). Development of cities can only be considered sustainable if nature is protected, and all the stakeholders are accommodated.

This paper focuses on spatial planning in China, especially in Beijing City, in comparison with spatial planning in Scotland.

Comparing and Contrasting Elements of China’s Planning Policy and Practice with that of Scotland

China has been considered as one of the fastest developing economies in the world. Currently ranked as the second largest economy in the world, China has had a massive development of cities especially due to increasing number of urban dwellers (United Nations 2001, p. 8).

However, some of these cities have experienced massive challenges that are directly related to pollution of air, land, and water sources in this country. In most of the cities such as Beijing, people are at times forced to stay indoors because of the dangers posed by polluted air.

This is a clear indication that this city is soon becoming unsustainable if this trend is not changed. The case is very different in Scotland. In Edinburgh, the government has come up with policies that help in ensuring that the city is sustainable (Lu & Robinson 2008, p. 62).

The following elements of planning policy and practice between these two countries show the existing similarities and differences.

National Planning Framework

According to Brink (2007, p. 90), the Chinese government has passed a number of policies that would help in spatial planning for its cities. In China, the system of spatial policy is categorized into three broad areas.

They include socio-economic development plans, the national spatial plans that define plans for land use, and urban-rural plans (Hillier 2007, p. 88). These three areas are managed at four administrative levels.

The highest level is the national level that is monitored by the national government. Other levels include provincial levels, county level and township levels.

Each of the administrative levels has a role to play in ensuring that the three components of spatial system policy are implemented as defined by the law.

The national planning framework in this country defines the role of the national government in spatial planning, and the roles that are left to other administrative levels.

This spatial planning structure is similar to that of Scotland as was defined in the Planning Act of 2006 in section (e).

The National Planning Framework, which was published on 25 June 2009, further clarifies how Scottish ministers are expected to coordinate in a way that would help in ensuring sustainability.

It is important to note that in both countries, the planning policy defines the following factors that should be observed when the relevant authorities are involved in spatial planning.

Socio-economic development: the policies state what should be done to ensure that the country’s socio-economic development is protected.

To this extant, the policies of the two countries define the housing system that should be adopted in urban centers and rural set-ups, the retailing centers, transport systems, the coastal planning, natural heritage, the open space, the green belts, flooding management and drainage system, waste management, onshore gas and oil operations, and the communication infrastructure.

These basic planning policies are shared in spatial planning in both countries.

The main difference between the elements of Chinese planning policy and practice, and that of Scotland comes in two ways.

The first one is that in Scotland, most of these planning policies and practice have been entrenched in the laws of the land through Acts of Parliament, while in China they are mostly based on ministerial decrees.

This has made the Chinese planning policies easier to skip. It explains why some of its cities such as Beijing are chaotic as far as the rate of pollution is concerned.

Designing Places

According to Altrock (2006, p. 98), spatial planning has been used generally to refer to planning on land use in a way that would not only ensure that it is useful today, but also sustainable for the future generation.

In the two cities, it is clear that efforts have been made to ensure that land in both urban and rural centers are planned for in a way that would yield maximum output while still remaining sustainable to the current and future generation.

In China, the government has made a lot of effort in designing places by setting out policies for the structure of its cities. Larsson (2006, p. 98) says that China’s spatial planning policies have been more concentrated in the urban centers.

The government has involved technocrats, especially the architects in designing streets, recreational centers, residential hub, the industrial hub, and other sub-elements to make the cities self-sustaining. This is the same policy practiced in Scotland.

For instance, within the residential hub are sub-elements such as schools, religious centers, medical facilities, recreational facilities, and other facilities that may be needed by the city dwellers for their normal livelihood (Campanella 2008, p. 43).

Inasmuch as the two countries share a lot in these policies, some difference can be witnessed on various policies. For instance, China does not have a clear plan of its rural setting.

Those who are responsible for developing and implementing these policies in these areas have not taken interest in planning for China’s rural set-ups.

In the Scottish cities, it is almost impossible to find schools near the industrial area, something that can be witnessed in some of the Chinese cities (Yumin & LeGates 2013, p. 78).

Scottish rural setting is also well planned, with statements clearly defining how schools, homes, religious buildings, and recreational centers should be built.


China needs a lot of improvement in order to make its cities and even the rural settings sustainable. The national government should review its waste management policy, and the level of emission of greenhouse gases.

It may even need to develop policies that would regulate usage of private cars because they massively contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases. The national government should not ignore its rural set-ups in its spatial planning process.

On the same note, the government of Scotland should come up with new policies that would help in regulating the usage of personal cars. The government may even consider encouraging cycle-to-work policy.

This will not only reduce pollution, but also improve health and physical fitness of its members of society. This will be in line with the element of spatial planning which focuses on socio-economic well-being of members of the society.

Review of how Carbon Management is affected by the National, Strategic, and Local Planning Policies

Carbon management is one of the central issues in spatial planning. According to Alterman (2001, p. 75), carbon management is very important in in ensuring that the environment is protected from damages caused by the associated pollutants.

China is one of the leading countries in the world in emission of carbon. Although the entire world shares the negative consequences brought by this pollution, China bears maximum consequences.

There are policies that are developed at national or local levels that have direct influence on carbon management in this country. According to Janssen and Veen (2008, p. 49), spatial plans in China is mainly done at national and regional levels.

The national spatial plans, which involve the land use plans, are always done under the Lands and Resources Ministry.

These plans specify issues of safe development of the ecosystem, effective national land resource distribution both in the cities and at the rural set-ups, preservation of natural resources including land, and safe use of energy resources.

It is important to note that at national levels, the policies have clearly stated how the environment should be protected from a possible destruction caused by human activities. This has helped a lot in carbon management.

One of the national policies that have been keenly observed in this country is the Green Wall of China, which was developed in 2001 (Palermo & Ponzini 2010, p. 41). This policy seeks to create a green belt of about 2800 miles to increase vegetation and fight desertification.

This policy has helped a lot in fighting carbon presence in the air. Morphet (2010, p. 24) observes that China’s current forest cover stands at 20%, making it one of the countries that have the highest percentage of forest cover. The government invested about $ 8 billion into this project.

This is a clear indication that these national policies can positively influence environment safety policies if they are well tuned towards environmental conservation.

Faludi (2002, p. 56) says that the high rate of carbon content in Chinese atmosphere is caused by lack of goodwill from the government to protect the environment. This scholar says that there is need to balance development and environmental protection.

According to Gunder and Hillier (2009, p. 25), most of the Chinese spatial plans at the national level have failed to focus on carbon reduction in the atmosphere. These policies give priority to industrial development at the cost of a pollution-free atmosphere.

The outline of China’s National Spatial Plan 2011-20130 is elaborate on how the government plans for its strategic growth and land use in the major cities in this country, but very limited in the effort to be made in managing carbon.

This deliberate omission of clear strategies of fighting carbon in the air makes it easy for the industrial sector to continue with their emission of greenhouse gases into the air. Areas under the greatest threat are the major cities such as Beijing.

The State Council approved the recent National Spatial Plan despite the red flag raised by environmental agencies of their failure to give enough focus on carbon management within the borders of the country (Wilson & Piper 2010, p. 112).

At the regional level, there are cases that have clearly demonstrated that policies of the local authorities can positively influence carbon management.

During the Summer Olympics of 2008 that was held in Beijing, the government issued a decree that limited the number of private cars on the road within this city and other neighboring regions months before the onset of the games.

The government also ordered that large industrial firms could only operate for 12 hours during the day when trees were capable of trapping the carbon (Yumin & LeGates 2013, p. 71). A survey confirmed that this policy reduced the amount of carbon in the air within this city by a wide margin.

It was very unfortunate that this policy was abolished soon after the end of the games. The city came under massive pollution once again (Gill 2009, p. 78).

This points out to the fact that national, strategic, and local planning policies have direct influence on carbon management campaigns. Environmental sensitive policies are the only solution that can help in the fight against environmental degradation.

Recommendations on appropriate carbon management policies

It is important to win the fight against carbon emission in order to ensure that the environment is protected (Fingerhuth 2004, p. 50).

The current environmental hazard experienced in the City of Beijing is a clear demonstration that efforts should be made to protect the environment. The following recommendations should be considered.

  • The government and other environmental agencies should create awareness among the stakeholders of the importance to reduce carbon emissions in the country. This awareness should also target the public because their activities play part in increasing carbon emissions. Awareness creation among the public should make use of both the mass and social media. When targeting other organizations such as large industrial firms, it is important for the policy makers to make direct contact with them because they will find it easy to ignore mass communication.
  • The government should encourage balanced development and environmental sustainability. The current developmental projects should not be done at the cost of future environmental sustainability. The government should make direct effort to reach industrial sector by developing policies that regulate industrial emissions.
  • The government, and other stakeholders involved in this program, should reach out to the public with policies on how to protect the environment, and increase vegetation cover. Trees and other vegetation will help in managing carbon level in the air.
  • Carbon management should not be considered as an exclusive duty of the government or environmental agencies. All stakeholders should come out in their own ways to manage levels of carbon emissions. Institutions such as schools and colleges should be involved in tree planting activities as part of the effort to fight excessive presence of carbon in the air.
  • In its spatial policies, the government should define some punitive measures against individuals or entities that contravene environmental-friendly laws.

Improving the interface between the two areas of practice

According to Bowman (2009, p. 67), development is an unavoidable factor within any given setting. This means that China may not stop its development strategies. However, unsustainable development is perilous because it reaches a moment where consequences outweigh benefits.

This means that there must be a sustainable development. This can only be achieved when there is a balance between development and environmental sustainability (Yumin & LeGates 2013, p. 57).

Policy planners must ensure that laws are developed that would protect the environment while still encouraging development. Spatial planning should be given enough relevance in the government.

All the three elements should be given emphasis in order to ensure that success is achieved in all fronts.


Spatial planning has gained a lot of relevance in the near past. There has been a concern that development was coming at a cost to the environment. Land has also been under a lot of pressure as the world’s population continues to increase.

China realized that the only way through which it could manage its land resource, and protect its environment from pollution is through spatial planning.


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